Hurling & Camogie

Eoin Gillan has heart set on second All-Ireland final in three years with Cushendall

Cushendall keeper Eoin Gillan doesn't suffer too greatly from pre-match nerves as the Ruairi Ogs prepare for St Thomas's Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Cushendall keeper Eoin Gillan doesn't suffer too greatly from pre-match nerves as the Ruairi Ogs prepare for St Thomas's Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

WORKING and living with his father was probably enough for Eoin Gillan – but now he’s managing the Cushendall hurling team.

The Ruairi Og ‘keeper admits he wasn’t too fond of the idea of his father Eamonn taking the senior reins.

Speaking ahead of Cushendall’s All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Galway champions St Thomas’s at Parnell Park tomorrow, Gillan says: “I came back from holidays and somebody asked me who was coming in with my da to do the senior job, and I said: ‘He’s not in for the senior job.’

“It turned out he was. I knew he was thinking about it, but didn’t think he’d take it on… I have to say I wasn’t keen to be honest. But it’s worked so far... I now work with him [Gillan's pharmacy in the town], I live with him and now I hurl with him!”

The 28-year-old was a key cog in the Cushendall wheel the last time the club reached the All-Ireland stage.

In the 2016 All-Ireland final Limerick kingpins Na Piarsaigh had the game won inside 20 minutes.

“We’d a bit of a reception out on the street after the All-Ireland final and Arron Graffin got up to speak and he said it was the best and worst day.

“It was obviously great getting there and seeing the maroon and white all around Croke Park,” says Gillan.

“It was the first time the club got there. But we didn’t do ourselves justice and we’ve been trying to get back there ever since.

“Hopefully we can rectify that on the 9th of February. Na Piarsaigh were a great team and on the day we were maybe a bit naïve.

“I know it was their first time too but they were a more experienced team than us. So hopefully we have learned from that and we’d love to get back there to right a few wrongs.”

Although the Antrim champions defeated the Galway champions – Sarsfields – at the semi-final stages in 2016, tomorrow’s opponents are expected to present a stiffer challenge at the north Dublin venue.

St Thomas’s won their first county title in 2012 and went on to beat Loughgiel Shamrocks in an All-Ireland semi-final replay before edging out Kilcormac-Killoughey of Offaly in the 2013 decider.

They had to wait another four years to taste county success again but fell at the All-Ireland semi-final hurdle.

Two seasons on, they are back on the biggest stage after overcoming Liam Mellows [2-13 to 0-10] in the county final.

After reaching the 2016 All-Ireland decider, Cushendall suffered back-to-back county final defeats to Loughgiel Shamrocks and Dunloy but bounced back to the summit in Eamonn Gillan’s first season in charge.

“In Antrim there are three or four teams that would fancy themselves to win the county. Every year we expect to win it. I’m not saying we should but we know if we hurl to our capabilities we’ll be there or thereabouts,” Gillan says.

A goalie since the age of 11, Gillan insists he doesn’t suffer from pre-match nerves and loves the high-wire discipline of being the last man standing.

“Nowadays the game is about possession and stats. Our stats man would come up to me at half-time and full-time and give me a breakdown of what puck-outs we’ve won or lost.

“We still have a lot of ball winners and we can go long but we’ve also skilful players at the back, - the likes of Paddy Burke and Eoghan Campbell who are very comfortable taking a ball.

“To be honest, I don’t get too nervous before or during games because it’s something I love doing.”